By Liu Jun
One morning, my former leader came to shop at my store. He said to me, “Do you know Boss Ma died last month, the one who built the houses for our unit before?” I asked him in surprise, “I just saw him not long ago and he looked fine. Why did he suddenly die?” The leader sighed and said, “He died of an acute cerebral hemorrhage. He is only 51. He had assets of over 10 million yuan, and owned seven or eight properties. And he also was a well-known entrepreneur in our county. Alas! He died at such a young age. What is the good of possessing so many houses and assets?” After he left, my heart couldn’t calm down for quite a long time. Scene after scene of the past appeared in my mind.
Recalling the Past: Bitter Journey Brought by Seeking After Fame and Fortune
After our work unit went bankrupt, in order to lead an affluent life, my husband and I contracted to run the general store of our work unit. Thenceforth, we ran it every day from dawn till dusk. Sometimes when we were too occupied with our businesses, we even had no time to eat, and couldn’t get enough rest. We were so exhausted that our backs ached every day. However, we had to welcome customers with smiles. We lived a life admired by others in appearance but exhausted inside. Though tired and hard, when seeing that we had more and more money and gained others’ admiration, we felt the price we had paid was worth it.
Later, when hearing selling steel bars was quite profitable, my husband scared up money around and then started the business to sell steel bars in the backyard of our shop. As a result, we became even more busy and tired. Doing the steel business and running the store almost rushed us off our feet. In order to tout for custom, we had to buy dinners and gifts for those in power. My husband always had to drink with the officials of administrative departments for industry and commerce, the tax authorities, and the bureau of quality supervision to deal with their various inspections. He seemed quite honorable on the outside, but when he returned home, he was exhausted and frequently lost sleep at night. He often drowned his troubles in drink to relieve stress when he was so stressed and unhappy. Under the influence of alcohol, he made me his punching bag to vent his unhappiness.
Whenever I thought that I had to manage the business in our store, had the members of my family to take care of, and also had to endure my husband’s unreasonable provocations and insults when he was drunk, I would feel very distressed. I had no worries about food or clothing, but I was particularly helpless, painful, empty and confused deep in my soul. I often asked myself: Is this the life we have been yearning for? We have earned the money we are longing for, yet why do I feel my heart is hollowed out? Why do I live so bitterly and tiredly?
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My husband’s Passing Away Made Me Get to Know What We pursued Was All in Vain
Just when I was feeling lost and helpless, my friend preached the gospel of the kingdom of God to me. Through reading God’s words and living the church life, I felt the pain that had been in my heart was gradually reduced and I had new hope and the courage to live. Later, I testified to God’s gospel to my husband in the hope of freeing him from the pain. He, however, always refused with the excuse that he had to earn more money before he was too old and it would not be too late to believe in God when he got old and lived in leisure.
One day, he drank all day again. After he got home, he said to me weakly, “For decades, in order to lead an affluent life, we have been painstakingly managing the business from dawn to dusk, exhausted physically and mentally. We are especially busy during Chinese New Year and other holidays, and cannot have our dinner until 8 or 9 o’clock everyday. Within three hundred and sixty-five days a year, we could only have a day off on the New Year’s Day. Now we have both son and daughter and have no worries about food or clothing, but I feel so vexed within. I cannot but drown my agony in drink every day. However, when waking up every morning, I felt hollow inside. I am too tired and I really don’t want to live such a miserable life.”
The next morning, my husband got up very early and went out. After a little while he came back. He gave me a wad of money and told me to take good care of the family. Noticing his unusual behavior, I anxiously asked him what was wrong with him. Only then did he stammer, “I have drunk pesticide….” He started to tremble all over as he said. I was instantly shocked and could hardly believe my ears. For a moment I felt at a loss what to do. I said in tears, “How could you do that? What’s the matter with you?” On the way to the hospital, I kept urging the driver to drive fast. My husband lay in my arms. He looked straight at me with a pale face, wanted to say something but could not speak a word. Tears rolled from his eyes, and then spattered down onto my hands. We stared at each other. Seeing his reluctant and helpless eyes, I felt great pain in my heart.
When we arrived at the emergency room, my husband was barely breathing. I desperately cried out to him, and begged the doctors repeatedly, “Save my husband please, no matter how much it costs …” The doctors pumped his stomach, gave him an IV, and electric shocks, but eventually they could not save his life. I stood there motionless. The scene that my husband lay in the emergency room as well as my 7-year-old daughter kept crying out for dad tore at my heart. The scene that we chatted last night emerged in my mind. I thought: Yesterday we chatted late into the night, yet now we are separated. He is only forty years old; of what use is so much money for him? Only at this point I came to realize: No matter how much material wealth or how much people’s support and high regard we gain, or how honorable life we lead during our lifetime, all of these are in vain in the end. Our life is so fragile and brief! When we lose the breath of life, everything we own will come to nothing, but only a cold body is left behind.
Pondering on God’s Words and Understanding the True Meaning of Life
Later, I read these words of God, “One exhausts a lifetime’s worth of energy fighting against fate, spends all of one’s time bustling about, trying to feed one’s family and shuttling back and forth between wealth and status. The things that people treasure are family, money, and fame, and they view these as the most valuable things in life. All people complain about their fates, yet still they push to the back of their minds the issues that are most imperative to examine and understand: why man is alive, how man should live, what the value and meaning of life are. They spend their entire lives, however long they may last, merely rushing about seeking fame and fortune, until their youth has fled and they have become gray and wrinkled. They live in this way until they see that fame and fortune cannot stop their slide toward senility, that money cannot fill the emptiness of the heart, that no one is exempt from the laws of birth, aging, sickness, and death, that no one can escape what fate has in store. Only when they are forced to confront life’s final juncture do they truly grasp that even if one owns vast wealth and extensive assets, even if one is privileged and of high rank, one still cannot escape death and must return to their original position: a solitary soul, with nothing to its name.”
In retrospect, in order to lead a wealthy life, my husband and I spared no pains and struggled hard to earn money, treating wealth, fame, profit and position as our lifelong goal. Even though we had gotten material things and money that we wanted, we lost the peace and joy of our heart, leading a weary, empty, and perplexed life, and even worse my husband came to a tragic end. I realized: No matter how much money we possess, and no matter how high our status is, they cannot fill the emptiness of our hearts, much less make us understand the meaning of life. Eventually, when we face death, none of these belong to us. Just as the saying goes: “You brought nothing with you when you were born and you cannot take anything with you after you die.” Recalling the reluctance, expectations, helplessness and disappointment in my husband’s eyes when he was at the brink of death, did that not express his complex psychology—fearing the loss of relatives and materials as well as death? So many years of efforts ultimately brought me hollowness, hopelessness, and loneliness.
We frequently see some of wealthy people, rich merchants, prominent officials and those who rush around for money and fame pass away in their youthful years; some commit suicide because of pessimism, but why do so many people follow in their footsteps to fight for money and fame one after another? I read these words of God,“People think that once they have fame and gain, they can then capitalize on those things to enjoy high status and great wealth, and to enjoy life. They think fame and gain are a kind of capital that they can use to obtain a life of pleasure-seeking and wanton enjoyment of the flesh. For the sake of this fame and gain which mankind so covets, people willingly, albeit unknowingly, hand over their bodies, minds, all that they have, their futures and their destinies, to Satan. They do so without even a moment’s hesitation, ever ignorant of the need to recover all that they have handed over. Can people retain any control over themselves once they have taken refuge in Satan in this way and become loyal to it? Certainly not. They are completely and utterly controlled by Satan. They have completely and utterly sunk into a quagmire, and are unable to free themselves. Once someone is mired in fame and gain, they no longer seek that which is bright, that which is righteous, or those things that are beautiful and good. This is because the seductive power that fame and gain have over people is too great; they become things for people to pursue throughout their lives and even for all eternity without end. Is this not true?”
“Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain.”
Only after reading God’s words did I come to understand the reason why my husband and I lived in unbearable pain. It was because we were fooled and poisoned by the satanic laws of survival, “Money makes the world go round,” “Money is first,” “Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing,” “Pursue to rise above others,” and so on. As a result, bound by the shackles of money and fame, we spent our life under Satan’s harm and torments. In the past, my husband was busy with social activities and dealing with various departments for the sake of money, which wearied him completely. Because of the pressure and emptiness in the heart, he embarked on a road of no return. As for me, in order to make more money, I managed the business in our store night and day by myself, reluctant to hire anyone. I could only have a day off in a year, just like a machine running unceasingly, without breathing space. This reminded me of the verse, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Indeed, even though we had a car and a house, lived a rich and enviable life and obtained the high regard of our relatives and friends, after a busy day, what was left was emptiness and loneliness in our spirits as well as weariness and fatigue in our body. I looked back on what my husband had said to me before he died. Though he had realized the reluctance and pain of seeking money and fame, he was incapable of seeing through Satan’s tricks; therefore, he was tempted by Satan and then embarked on a road of no return.
Knowing the Truth and Heading Toward the Bright Way of Life
Then I read more of God’s words,“But there is an exceedingly simple way to free oneself from this state, which is to bid farewell to one’s former way of living; to say goodbye to one’s previous goals in life; to summarize and analyze one’s previous lifestyle, view of life, pursuits, desires, and ideals; and then to compare them with God’s will and demands for man, and see whether any of them is consistent with God’s will and demands, whether any of them delivers the right values of life, leads one to a greater understanding of the truth, and allows one to live with humanity and the likeness of a human being. When you repeatedly investigate and carefully dissect the various goals that people pursue in life and their myriad ways of living, you will find not one of them conforms to the Creator’s original intention with which He created humanity. All of them draw people away from the Creator’s sovereignty and care; they are all traps which cause people to become depraved, and which lead them to hell. After you recognize this, your task is to lay aside your old view of life, stay far from various traps, let God take charge of your life and make arrangements for you; it is to try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to live without individual choice, and to become a person who worships God.” God’s words show us the correct path and direction. If we want to break free from the bonds of money and fame and live a valuable and meaningful life, the wisest choice for us is to come before the Creator, worship Him with a true heart and submit to His arrangements. Only by doing this can we gain happiness.
After walking through this path of life, tortuous and fraught with difficulties, I came to realize: If we only live for money, bodily comforts and fame, they will lead us to miss the chance of knowing the Creator and returning to Him to gain the truth and life. Thus, even if we ultimately gain money, fame and enjoyment, we still live in vain. Just as the Lord Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). After experiencing the sorrows and joys of the world and ups and downs, I have understood the value and significance of life and known that only the Creator takes responsibility for our lives and worries about our fate and prospects. Only God can lead us out of Satan’s affliction and control. And only His words are the forever unchanging truth. Thank God for leading me to walk onto the bright and right path of life!